Simat kar kis liye nuqta nahīn bantī zamīn is Meher Afroz Vahid’s debut solo exhibition. The exhibition’s title, which is borrowed from the Urdu poet, Meeraji, manifests Vahid’s unsettling cultural location that anchors or rather stirs her new body of work. Born to a traditional family in Mumbai, Vahid studied sculpture at JJ School of Arts and recently completed her MFA from Shiv Nadar University. Torn between the urge to expand boundaries and the need to gravitate around a concrete and familiar centre, Vahid’s works present a subtle exploration of a personal, cultural and even spiritual transition.
Dialectical rather than linear, Vahid’s passage advances in a to-and-fro motion. She engraves her childhood’s night prayer, Naad-e-Ali, on a wax pillow (Untitled, 2019), and also holds in her hand a mirror which reflects and hometown’s sky, a gesture that can be seen as an attempt to capture Meeraji’s “expanded sky” (Asmaan, 2018). But the sky in the photographs is gradually eclipsing, leaving the viewer with a claustrophobic sensation, while the artist’s transitional position renders the longing for a dwelling infeasible. The well which usually serves as a metaphor for one's origin, cannot contain the complexed experiences that became part of the artist’s new ‘self’ (Ghar se dur ghar, 2018-2019). The circular text in the cement-well paradoxically indicates that home can now only be that which is far from itself.
Vahid's body of works encompasses a variety of media, experimenting both with sculpture and installation, photography and video art. Nevertheless, even while working with new media, Vahid's practice is deeply engaged with materials, or more accurately with the metamorphosis of materials: casting wax, melting soap, chiseling residue of cement and weaving wool. Rather than documenting processes which arrive at a formal conclusion, Vahid’s videos sustain the flux into which she draws her materials. The water constantly drips on the salt rock that she placed on a pile of papers and the hazy endless process of knitting, in the double channel video work titled Zari, 2018.
However, Vahid’s material explorations are not destined to a formalistic end. In juxtaposition to her metamorphosed masses, she experiments with calligraphy and text. This juxtaposition creates a strained relation between signifying apparatuses and the brute presence of the substance. Whereas some of the texts hint to the meanings of her processes, in other cases the procedure strips words of their indicative value.
Thus, while the text Body on Body poeticises the whiteness of the gallery walls, the series of antonyms which are written with heena - gehraiyan/satah (surface), chehra/kharab, maujud/khatam - erase one another and foreground sheer materiality (Untitled, 2019). The erasure of meaning might be seen as an attempt to break free from the constraints of tradition which are embedded in language. By transforming signs to matter, the artist clears the way for endless possibilities of becoming. Nevertheless, Vahid also acknowledges the futility of cultural solipsism. She engraves the word ‘Aaj’ on a piece of cement residue, underscoring the mutual dependence of past and present. The past can be understood only through the prism of the present while the present banks on what constantly emerges as the past.
- Achia Anzi
Meher Afroz Vahid (b. 1991) is a Mumbai based artist. She did her diploma in sculpture from Sir J. J. School of Fine Arts (2016), Mumbai & MFA from Shiv Nadar University (2018), Delhi. She has done a three-month residency, funded by Future Foundation (2017), Switzerland.
Solo Show at Gallery Threshold 2019.